By a 20-1 margin, the Nevada Senate passed legislation Thursday that expands criminal and civil liability to include crimes against transgender individuals.
That is far different from two years ago, when a very similar measure by Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, died in the Senate.
Prime sponsor Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, said the bill is about equal protection. She said she knows of cases in which people who are transgender have been discriminated against or even physically assaulted because they are different.
“We have to stop erecting walls around ourselves to keep people out who are not like us,” she said.
Discrimination often results from people having different physical characteristics that they can’t change, Spearman said. The protections already are included in federal law, she said; Senate Bill 139 expands them to Nevada law.
“We’re taking another step to right that wrong,” she said.
Parks said he was pleased to see the margin of passage, pointing out the measure’s lack of success last time around.
Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, joined others in urging support for SB139.
“If there is actual legal evidence to prove a violent crime is motivated by this, then there is proof of premeditation of a crime being committed,” he said. “This law does not address crimes of passion.”
Hutchison, a Mormon, pointed out that his faith has, in the past, been severely discriminated against.
“I believe all Nevadans will be benefitted by this law,” he said.
The only no vote was cast by Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, who said he was concerned it could create a “super-free-speech” right. But after talking the issue over with Spearman after the floor session, he said he was satisfied his concerns were unfounded.
“If we had taken the vote after I talked with her, it would have been 21-0,” he said.
Hardy said he agrees the state has an obligation to protect people from discrimination based on their physical characteristics because of their gender identity or expression.
The bill goes to the Assembly, where it already has 21 joint sponsors.